The Drystones are two young chaps from Somerset: Alex Garden and Ford Collier; singers and multi-instrumentalists who made their debut album at age 16. Remarkably, this is already their third outing. On the surface, We Happy Few seems typical of albums of our age. Three songs and eight instrumental sets and, seemingly, I have dozens like it.
What singles The Drystones out is the imagination that has gone into the selection and arrangement of their material, aided by producer and percussionist Will Lang. They open with a pair of original tunes, ‘Green Room Strathspey’ and ‘Arc Reel’, together entitled ‘Treekend’. The second tune, written by Alex, has some rather odd progressions that immediately grab the attention. They then switch to a set of three Irish tunes featuring Ford’s whistles and that isn’t entirely expected. Admit it, you’re interested now.
The first song is ‘My Son John’. This is Martin Carthy’s version as rewritten for The Imagined Village and gives the duo the opportunity for some multi-tracking and Ford the chance to strap on his electric guitar and unpack every percussion instrument he owns. After this comes ‘The Cheshire Set’, rather more stately, and another original tune before ‘Man Of Words (And Not Of Deeds) a nursery rhyme from the 17th century. The words may have originated earlier or may be a satire on Charles II but we may speculate all we want. Again, this isn’t quite what we might expect.
‘Katy Cruel’ was originally heard from Fay Hield and The Drystones have tried to make an essentially American song sound English. Later we get as English as you like with ‘Hole In The Wall’, a hornpipe that may have been written by Henry Purcell, before a set of Irish and Irish-influenced tunes called ‘More Nyah’ and I’m going to wince at that.
This is a good album from two young performers but I could wish for more songs.
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Artists’ website: http://www.thedrystones.co.uk/
‘My Son John’ – live in the shed: